Was Accidental Discharge by Illinois Judge a Dry-Fire Mistake?

Judge Patrick O'Shea's Revolver

Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- It happened on 15 September, 2017. An Illinois Judge, Patrick O'Shea, 67, accidentally fired a short barreled Smith & Wesson five-shot in his apartment in Wheaton, Illinois. The bullet went through a mirror, the wall, and into the next apartment. No one was hit, and there was little property damage. He checked to see if anyone was in the apartment. There was not. He may have thought “No harm, no foul”, and proceeded to attempt to lie his way out of the problem. Big mistake. It changed his life. From dailyherald.com:

On Sept. 24, the neighbors told police they found what appeared to be a spent bullet on their living room floor. They turned over the bullet to police, along with photographs they had taken of their damaged wall.

Police reports say O'Shea gave property managers at least three excuses for the hole, including that he accidentally put a screwdriver through the wall while hanging a mirror and that his son accidentally caused the hole while using a pneumatic nail gun.

Ekl previously called the shooting an “accidental discharge of a gun” that O'Shea believed to be unloaded.

As a condition of his bond, O'Shea was ordered to turn in all his weapons, ammunition, FOID card and concealed carry permit to Wheaton police.

I have a strong suspicion that this was a dry fire accident. They happen to people who take carrying a firearm seriously, and while rare, happen often enough to take precautions so they do not happen to you. The common situation goes something like this:

A person is dry firing a firearm (People who do dry firing tend to be serious about maintaining proficiency with their firearm).

They decide to stop dry firing and load their carry gun.

At this precise moment, they are distracted. Perhaps by a telephone or other item that demands immediate action without leaving the area.

The distraction stops. They consider – where was I?-

The memory of dry firing comes up.

They pick up the firearms, aim it, and … blam!

If they are lucky, no one is injured. Many televisions have given their lives for the sake of dry firing.   In the Judge's case, he lost months of income, was lambasted in the media, and was criminally charged.  Five months later, another judge, in another county, dismissed the charge against him because it did not meet the legal requirements of the law. From chicagotribune.com:

A DuPage County judge who fired a bullet through his apartment wall and into a unit next door was acquitted Friday of misdemeanor reckless conduct charges.

The case against Patrick O’Shea was tossed out at the midpoint of trial by Kane County Judge Keith Johnson. The judge agreed with O’Shea’s attorney, Terry Ekl, that prosecutors had failed to meet their legal burden of proof and filed a complaint against O’Shea that was legally deficient.

“There was no evidence that there was anyone even in the building when the gun went off, so it could not be reckless conduct, and he should have never been charged with reckless conduct,” Ekl said afterward.

The judge was alone in his Wheaton apartment in September when he fired the snub-nosed revolver and the round penetrated a mirror and went through the wall.

It is the mirror that makes dry firing a likely culprit.

If you wish to avoid this type of life-changing accident, here are things you should do when dry firing:

Unload and load in a separate location from where you will be dry firing.

Aim at something that will stop the bullets you normally carry. A fireplace or a bullet-resistant vest can work.

Create a simple ritual before dry firing: Say unloaded, unloaded, unloaded.

When you reload, say: Loaded, Loaded, Loaded.

These simple steps can prevent a tragedy or the sort of life-changing accident Judge Patrick O'Shea experienced.

These incidents tend to happen to people who are serious about being proficient.

People who read this article tend to be serious. Follow the rules above, and avoid dry firing accidents.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

  • 19 thoughts on “Was Accidental Discharge by Illinois Judge a Dry-Fire Mistake?

    1. I thought all judges carried a Judge? I am not going to practice drifting a gun indoors after all these years. I just have too much respect for what a gun can do. When I was in training to be a Correctional Officer we had to go through firearms training. We were certified with a Smith and Wesson revolver. The first thing we were told to do was a readiness check. We had to check the gun for loose screws along with checking the barrel for obstructions. I was very hesitant to look down the barrel of any gun after years of safe handling. It just scares me to look down the business end of any gun. There are a lot of people buried in cemeteries because of guns that weren’t supposed to be loaded.

      1. @SDog, Negligent is a conclusion of law following a four part analysis. One can not leap to the to the conclusion that any unintentional discharge is negligent.

    2. Treat guns with the same respect as snakes and ya won’t get bit. Or have an “accident”. The gun is ALWAYS loaded, until you physically check it three times. If the gun is being passed from one person to another, both should check that it is unloaded. If ya pick it up to carry it, check it. You’d look foolish drawing an unloaded gun when ya need to use it.

      Remember O’Toole’s commentary on Murphy’s Law: “Murphy was an optimist”.

      1. Amen. Same thing I teach people when I teach them to shoot. When I check the gun and hand it to you, check it yourself. If you leave the gun for ANY reason, check the gun. If someone refuses to check the gun himself, get the heck out of there!

    3. Guess what we all make mistakes. The Rule, No Live Ammo in the same area that you are working on or cleaning any firearm, and of course the same applies for Dry Fire. I just switched back to my Roots, Revolvers, and most of what I am looking for has to be new or near new, and of course 357. I do a lot of Dry Fire with these, but I always Open Er Up and check before I do so. Why, because Dry Firing to help clean up the action becomes somewhat of a habit. When I put them into Carry I have to break that habit. Now The Judge may have felt Stupid, or Human as we all make mistakes, yes even you. But Lying, well us humans do that out of ego or whatever. I voted for Trump even known half of what he had said was a Lie, yet worse is he continues to do so, and worse yet is we let him.

      1. I don’t know if you’ve ever been around a celebrity of any sort before. Certainly the President was a celebrity for 30-40 yrs before he became a politician.

        The few celebs I was around were all convinced that their feces did not have smell, and pearls of pure enlightened wisdom flowed from their lips. Wealth and power do that. Same way that everybody knew Weinstein was a caveman, but looked the other way.

        The “honest” celebrity that understands the common man is rare. Most don’t want to be out of the spotlight and will say/do anything to stay in it. For people like Barbs Streisand to admit she is not relevant and probably never has been would be a thunderbolt from above into her ego. So, I guess what I’m saying is that the President, being extremely wealthy and a celebrity fit right into the circus that politicians have created. I watch what he does, not what he says.

        Someone on this blog said that the President was the first “Pragmatist” President…he didn’t care about Repub or Demo, he wanted ideas and wants to solve problems. I’m OK with that, having been a member of both parties (OK, 40 yrs ago for one election as a Dem) and now an Independent, because both left my politics.

    4. It is always the burden for prosecution to PROVE beyond a reasonable doubt that the facts support the charges laid. In this case, to lay a charge of reckless endangerment, there WOULD have to have been other persons in position to have been at risk when the round made its short journey into the neighbouring flat. It would not surprise me if the prosecutor, likely to have known the accused (most prosecutors know most judges in the area) simply “forgot” to establish this critical fact, knowing that without a human body in harm’s way, there IS no harm. thus the case folds. As always, find one or more key pieces of the charge, and simply cast enough doubt, or pounce when the prosecution did not fully establish it as fact. Case folds.

      On the other hand, this judge’s deceit about what happened IS significant. I was thinking “the coppers have the spent bullet, run barrel trace checks (in Illinois, EVERY firearm purchased MUST be submitted to ISP and THEY fire a few test rounds, keeping the bullets to later run ballistics tests to match if needed). In IL, they KNOW what guns you own because of the FOID and his Mother May I Card. Spent round, who lives next door, look up his guns, find the test round date, match, HE is the one who fired it. Think all that through in half a minute (a judge has the sort of mind to do that) and realise “I’m toast, better have a chat with the neighbours and explain, stand the cost of making repairs, and it quietly disappears. Lawfully and ethically and with integrity. But he chose to try and lie his way out of it. Surprised they didn’t charge him with lying to the coppers…. we mere mortals readaing this WOULD have been so charged. And then, even if the base charge got tossed, we’d still be in the dock for the lying. Perjury, I think its called…..

    5. There was one time I dumped the rounds out or a revolver and did not check the cylinder to be sure it was empty. fortunately another person did notice there was one still in a chamber preventing a negligent discharge. (thank you Steve) ALWAYS check the chamber and magazine .

    6. This Judge was released from responsibility by a corrupt buddy of his. To claim that the action was not negligent was to imply that since no one was killed a crime did not take place. What logic! Unbelievable! It wasn’t an accidental discharge it was a NEGLIGENT DISCHARGE. On my range, and in our matches, we no longer use the term “accidental” and replace it with the word “negligent” because we wish to stress that the gun does not have a mind of it’s own and it is always the fault, the negligence, of the person holding the gun that needs to be addressed.

    7. Look, I know everyone makes mistakes and gets careless once in a while, but obviously when dealing with a gun, utmost care must be taken.

      For starters, let’s stop using the term “accident”. This was pure negligence, as in a negligent discharge. An accident would be if he bought a “drop safe” Honor Guard/Sig P320 gun, it dropped, but the gun still fired. THAT’S an accident –at least for the gun owner — it’s still negligence for Sig or Honor Defense ;). Almost everything else is negligence due to the gun owner.

      The judge might be forgiven for this negligence since no one got hurt thankfully, but he should be ashamed for the lie and coverup. It’s really a shame his case got thrown out — this might be a case of different rules for powerful people as opposed to the common peons.

    8. I am not overly concerned that there was unintentional discharge of a weapon, but more concerned this man’s choice of location ( an apartment which means other people around ) and subsequent lies about the event. I am sure he could have access to any police practice range he wanted, and who would ever trust his judgement because he chose to lie repeatedly It would have had a better outcome if he knocked on neighbors door and just admitted he screwed up. Unlikely the police would have pursued it as vigorously as they did, even if they were involved. Lying to the police is stupid, nobody should know that better than a judge.

    9. The judge and I share at east one experience. I cleaned the the Sig, did the function check loaded and chambered a round. The hammer is back, there is a round in the chamber. Next would normally be de-cocking and holstering it.

      I then heard screaming at a house about 100 yards away. I wondered it this was the time one of the residents shot the other. When there was no resulting gunfire, I said to myself:

      Where was I? Oh yeah, function check.

      Wrong, so very, very wrong. I did aim the pistol in the save direction, (into the ground) and got the biggest surprise of the year when I pressed the trigger.

      Right up to that day, I was very smug about having zero negligent discharges.

      Now I talk to myself while going through the process. Some of the words involve harsh language directed at myself.


    10. I question the judge’s ability to serve, if the judge lied about what happened with the accidental firing of his handgun he’s damned lucky no one was hurt or killed.

    11. Snap caps which are a different color than ammunition are also a good dry fire technique. You can then consciously unload your real ammunition and count those snap caps into place before your dry firing practice. Also, there are numerous laser simulators out there that can replace any kind of ammunition.

      Fairly obvious that this gent didn’t check his wheel gun as being empty but “assumed” it was…or perhaps he was trying to use fired cartridges as snap caps instead of paying for the real thing.

    12. I wouldn’t say that the judge, because he is a judge with other judge friends, experienced a life changing event the way any of us mere mortals would have experienced a life changing event. You see, WE would have been charged with every possible violation possible to cost us everything possible. The poor judge was “lambasted” ( oh, that’s terrible isn’t it?) and lost several months pay (oh my) where as we would have been charged with a litany of the worst offenses possible to permanently Rob us of the right to ever bear arms. The fact that his lawyer argued, and the presiding judge (a friend of his) agreed that prosecutors didn’t meet the measure proving reckless endangerment because they couldn’t prove anyone was even in the building at the time (are you kidding me) is indicative of the difference between us and them, as they see it.
      This whole world is sick

      1. Gee, Bill. You seem to be calling Nancy Pelosi a liar every time she says “no one is above the law.” Of course, that does not include the clintons, eric holder, obama and other prominent democrats.

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